Carers Week 2017 seminar successfully held on 12 June
Sunday, 25 June 2017
CWT celebrated this year’s Carers Week with a seminar which is the first of its kind to have been organised within the Chinese community in the UK. Carers Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlighting the challenges carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.
The two-hour seminar held on 12 June entitled The State of Caring: Towards Building a Supportive Community for the Wellbeing of the Elderly and Their Carers took place in the London Chinese Community Centre. It was led by a distinguished panel of speakers drawn from the voluntary and statutory sectors in Manchester, Birmingham and London. They were joined by a body of audience comprised of representatives from Chinese community organisations, members of the concerned public and a host of Chinese media news outlets.
Circle Steele, CEO of Wai Yin Society in Manchester, shared with the audience the organisation’s experience in providing a dedicated service via the Carers Corner, where Chinese carers meet regularly for meals and workshops that aim to bring health benefits through social interaction and peer support. Anna Yim, CEO of Chinese Community Centre-Birmingham, talked about how their centre continued to provide vital support to carers in the West Midlands amidst the challenges imposed by council funding cuts and the implications on race equality. Her colleagues, Kate Gordon and Amy Cui, who are in charge of the day care centre and social care services, related in detail about the culturally-sensitive support they are able to provide to help elderly users improve wellbeing as well as navigate the social care system. In particular, CCC-B’s service experience informs us that those new to the caring role need extra support at the beginning to adjust to the enormous challenges of becoming a carer.
Within Greater London representatives from two highly regarded Chinese organisations introduced to the audience the targeted schemes they run which have positive implications for the wellbeing of carers. Sum Hau from Camden Chinese Community Centre manages the Housebound Project that delivers domiciliary care services to the Chinese elders in Camden and neighbouring boroughs. Carers often undertake a range of personal care and domestic tasks for the elderly loved ones they look after, and having a qualified helper at hand on a regular basis can take considerable pressure off being a full-time carer. Similarly, Gill Tan who is the Co-ordinator of the Dementia Awareness Project based in Chinese National Healthy Living Centre, touched on the undiagnosed stress among carers, especially those who are older, and how the project she co-runs provides vital and accurate information that helps equip Chinese carers with better skills to cope with looking after elderly people suffering from dementia.
The vital contributions made by carers to society were further affirmed by speakers from statutory bodies that are tasked to implement the Care Act 2014. Malcolm Rose, Head of Service (Complex Care) of the Adult Social Care Division of Westminster City Council, explained the legislative framework that guides councils in England and Wales in deciding who qualifies for support. This includes both adults who need social care as a result of old age, ill-health and disability as well as their unpaid carers. The ‘independent ethos’ and an emphasis on choice now underpin the provision of statutory social care which aim to put people in control of the kind of care they wish to receive in their care package. A similar line of thinking is embodied in the enhanced support given to carers via a statutory carer assessment, as explained by Francis Ngale, City and End of Life Carers Project Manager of Westminster Carers Network. As he pointed out, one in ten people in the UK currently is an unpaid carer and their role is often a hidden one. With timely practical and emotional support, coupled with quality advice and information, people stand a good chance to combine the role of caring with living a life where they are being valued as individuals with their own needs and aspirations.
Members of the audience acknowledged the awareness-raising aspect of the seminar in the context of today’s ageing society. It is recognised that community organisations in Chinese communities around the country are already doing a lot of good work in supporting the most needy and vulnerable older people in our community. There is nonetheless plenty of scope to work closer together and develop a more joined-up approach in service delivery, with a longer tern objective to influence the debate and implementation of social policy. Financial cut-backs at the local authority level is posing significant challenges to the capacity of councils in meeting the support needs of both the elderly and their carers, and as community organisations we must step up to ensure the sustainability of our services to ensure that Chinese elderly and those who care for them will continue to receive culturally sensitive assistance.
Chinese Welfare co-chairs Mei Sim Lai OBE DL and Merlene Toh Emerson MBE remarked on the success of the seminar. “We are pleased to host CWT’s first joint Chinese community seminar for Carers Week this year. We hope through the forum we can help inform government policy and educate the public of the needs of carers themselves”.
Our thanks go to all the speakers who generously shared their expertise with the audience at this useful event. We are very grateful to Chinatown restaurant owner Mr Leslie KK Ng who sponsored refreshments. It was heartening to see the presence of an array of Chinese media news and we thank them for covering the event and helping to raise awareness of this important subject within the Chinese community.
As a national charity CWT has focussed largely on the welfare of the Chinese elderly. We will continue to play our part in national campaigns like this one which we believe is an effective route to voicing our concerns on some of the most challenging issues facing elderly social care.